It makes me happy to get Christmas Cards, to see the family pictures, and even to receive the generic year-in-review letters that come in many of them. I know these letters usually give a curated, Facebook kind of glance at people’s lives, but I enjoy them anyway.
This year, though, many of my Christmas letters have started with something along the line of “What a year this has been!” or “We’re all so glad in the Smith family that 2020 is coming to an end!” It’s clear that people haven’t been travelling, or celebrating with big family get-togethers and meals out. It has even noted that the included group photo was actually from last year. People say right up front just how much they miss everyone. Life and death finding a way regardless, baptisms, weddings, graduations and funerals have gone on, as I know firsthand. Often, though, with travel restrictions, if these important events happened at a great distance, they happened without us. Sigh.
There is an authenticity to this. The first Christmas, as portrayed in the Gospels, stripped of our romantic notions, was a story of hardship. Pregnant, completely worn out by travel, in a strange town, and displaced by the crowd, giving birth in a place where animals dwelt – this is no one’s dream of the birth of a baby. We only darken the picture further by pointing out that the Romans were as dark a plague on the face of the earth as the Coronavirus, and were displacing people so that they could know how much to tax their conquered neighbors.
Angels still found reason to sing about it. I hope that you are able to find reasons to sing about it, too.
No matter how dark the world can seem, how painful our bodies get, how much we have to struggle, we are loved by Emmanuel, God with us. Regardless of how politics unfolded, or international relations decayed, or raging wildfires consumed, we are loved by Emmanuel, God with us. In spite of rancorous debate on how to address the pandemic, or the struggle to educate children, and the terrible loss for business owners and employees, we are loved by Emmanuel, God with us.